Love and Relationships

[Two Pronged] Am I bipolar, and is it linked to my fights with my boyfriend?

Margarita Holmes, Jeremy Baer

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[Two Pronged] Am I bipolar, and is it linked to my fights with my boyfriend?

Nico Villarete/Rappler

'Please advise me: is this bipolar disorder, or merely a result of my fatigue and the disappointment of not being married?'

Rappler’s Life and Style section runs an advice column by couple Jeremy Baer and clinical psychologist Dr. Margarita Holmes.

Jeremy has a master’s degree in law from Oxford University. A banker of 37 years who worked in three continents, he has been training with Dr. Holmes for the last 10 years as co-lecturer and, occasionally, as co-therapist, especially with clients whose financial concerns intrude into their daily lives.

Together, they have written two books: Love Triangles: Understanding the Macho-Mistress Mentality and Imported Love: Filipino-Foreign Liaisons.

Dear Dr. Holmes and Mr. Baer,

I am 33 years old, working in Indonesia as a manager these last five years – since 2018, when I got widowed.

My concern started three years ago and became worse and worse. I sometimes feel hopeless.

I do not want to talk to anybody when I feel this way; often I have no appetite and feel so tired even if there is no reason to do so (like when I’ve just woken up in the morning).

But there are other times that I want to have sex even in the midst of this sadness. I get angry instantly even if there is no big issue and when somebody says something I don’t like. I sometimes think of suicide. All this I feel when I am working. Is this a factor of my work conditions?

I have a boyfriend with whom I can open up to the way I do to you. But we cannot get married because his previous marriage has not yet been annulled. My one dream in life is to get married. Could this be a reason for my feelings?

One last thing: I had a relationship with a guy even when I had my boyfriend. It was in the Philippines when I went there for vacation. When this guy found out I had a boyfriend, he hit the roof. I broke up with him because I am not sure I love him; I just had fun during my short stay in the Philippines.

I asked my boyfriend in Indonesia to forgive me, because I love him so much, and he forgave me.

The very reason I did this is my frustration that we are not yet married. When I am happy, I am super happy and I want to shout because of this extreme happiness! I researched and think these are symptoms of bipolar disorder.

Please advise me: is this bipolar disorder or merely a result of my fatigue, and the disappointment of not being married, and also the desperate fights I had with my boyfriend over my relationship with the other guy in the Philippines?

What shall I do to avoid the depression which cripples me? Please advise me so that I can bring back the trust of my boyfriend, the way he used to trust me before.

Many thanks,

Dear Patricia,

Thank you for your email.

Your description of your state of mind indeed suggests that you are suffering from depression (happiness, however extreme, is not an indicator of bipolar disorder) and as you are clear that it started three years ago, you should investigate the cause in order to begin the recovery process. Therapy and/or medication may be appropriate.

You attribute your depression to your inability to get married, a situation you yourself are unable to influence directly because it depends on your boyfriend getting his annulment. Perhaps you should try to work out why marriage per se is so important to you. What would it add to your life that your relationship with your boyfriend currently lacks? What is it that this piece of paper symbolizes that you miss so much that it causes depression?

It would also be useful to analyze why you had this relationship while on holiday. Is it because you are not convinced that your boyfriend’s annulment will materialize, or is something else lacking, in which case perhaps marriage, at least to him, might not be such a good idea?

As for regaining his trust, you need to identify the reason for your infidelity and then to convince him that you will not allow that to reoccur. Of course, to do this, you first need to be convinced yourself, which depending on whether the actual reason goes to the heart of your relationship, may prove problematic.

All the best,

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Dear Patricia:

Thank you very much for your letter. It would be unethical for anyone to diagnose you simply from this one letter you wrote. However, because you wrote with such clarity about your experiences and feelings, I will hazard a guess which you can confirm (or disconfirm) by actually seeing a mental health professional who can diagnose you more accurately, if only because they can relate with you longer and with greater depth.

The guess is yes, you most probably have bipolar disorder. Your description of how low your lows, and how high your highs, are is classic – familiar to anyone who has manic depression themselves.

That you had an affair while in the Philippines despite loving your Indonesia-based boyfriend also sounds like something a person with bipolar disorder might do when hypomanic. Hypomania usually encourages/results in doing things that seem (and, alas, often are!) enjoyable, no matter what the consequences, when high (hypomanic and thus overly confident) and reality is unchecked. However, reality can bite brutally once it can no longer be ignored.

BUT, there is good news, especially for someone who writes a letter like you do. The most important is: “Is this bipolar disorder?” This shows that, while you may fear having a mental disorder (which everyone fears), and wish you didn’t (which everyone wishes), you are more open to the likelihood that you do.  This further means, hopefully, that you will not balk as much about having to take medication (which is 99.99% likely) and making lifestyle changes (which again is 99.99% likely).

This is the best news I can give you so far, dearest Patricia. BUT should you want to get down to brass tacks, asking specific questions about specific solutions to problems that inevitably crop up because you have bipolar disorder, please write to us again. You will get suggestions – “been (and am still) there; probably done that (or worse)” – from me and “how best to live if your loved one has bipolar disorder” from my husband and co-columnist, Jeremy Baer.

All the best,


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